Spirit of Free Beer 2011 Competition

The good folks in BURP (Brewers United for Real Potables) are holding their 19th annual “Spirit of Free Beer” competition on May 14, 2011, at the Mad Fox Brewing Company.  This competition is the metropolitan Washington DC (DC/MD/VA) area’s largest amateur homebrew competition and has been an annual tradition of theirs since 1992.  The event is judged by Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) qualified judges who provide entrants with quality feedback in the form of written evaluations containing suggestions for improvement.  So we are talking about an excellent opportunity to get feedback on your homebrew.

Winners of this event will received great prizes such as brewing ingredients/equipment, apparel from well-known breweries, and gift certificates from local merchants.  In fact, the 2010 competition had prizes with an estimated total retail value of $3700.  So this is a great opportunity to get feedback while winning some awesome brewing items.

There is no limit on the number of entries and all BJCP beer/mead/cider styles will be accepted.  $6 for first entry, $5 for each subsequent entry.

More information on registration deadlines and submission of your homebrewing entries can be found on the Spirit of Free Beer XIX website.

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Set Your Calendars…Big Brew will be held on May 7th!!

For those of you who are not familiar with Big Brew, this is an annual event held in celebration of National Homebrew Day (May 7th). Brewers from all over the country come together at a regional location to drink beer, eat food, hang out, socialize, and most importantly, brew beer together.

Details on Big Brew – Below you will find answers to some questions you might have about Big Brew.

When/Where is Big Brew being held this year? This year’s Big Brew event will be on Saturday, May 7th, 2011.  The event is held in the parking lot behind Maryland Homebrew (6770 Oak Hall Lane, Suite 115, Columbia, MD 21045).  Brewers usually start showing up around 9am to set up and begin brewing.

What should I bring? First of all you need to bring yourself.  This is an amazing event that you will have fun at regardless of if you bring your own equipment to brew or you just come to help out fellow friends and CSIers.  But should you want to brew, get there early with your equipment.  The best spots (i.e., near water, in shade, etc.) go early.  In fact, you might want to consider pairing up with a brew buddy so that you don’t have to lug all your equipment.  You can bring half your equipment and your brew buddy can bring the other half.  That way no one has to transport all of their equipment.

Other items you will need besides your brewing equipment:  your homebrew (MOST IMPORTANT!!!  To enjoy with others and also show everyone how awesome the beer being created by CSIers actually is), lawn chairs, pop-up canopy (protect from sun or rain), meat to grill, or side dishes (enough to share with others for lunch).

Will everyone be brewing the same recipe? The American Homebrew Association normally gives a recipe for the type of beer to brew at this event, but you aren’t limited to having to brew that style if you want to participate.  In fact, this year there are 3 beers that AHA recommends we brew.  They are East India Pale Ale, Must Be the Season of the Wit, and Rocket Rod’s Positively Porter.  Recipes for all 3 beers can be found here for single mash, double mash, and extract brewers.

What if I can’t make it for the full day? That’s OK…come by for 30-minutes or the whole thing.  No matter how long you are there, you will have fun.

Can I help out in the organization of this? Yes you can.  In fact, the organizers of Big Brew are looking for volunteers to help in organizing this event.  Please contact CSI President Greg Thompson if you are willing to help.

Again, this is one of the best homebrewing events of the year here in Maryland, so we hope to see you all there.  Please contact one of the CSI officers if you have any questions.

Want to see pictures from last year’s event?  Click here!

Permanent link to this article: http://csibrewers.org/content/?p=575

Great Video Tutorial on Preparing A Yeast Starter

I ran across this awesome video showing a step-by-step “how to” on preparing a yeast starter on the Homebrewers Association website. I watched the video and thought it was a great reference for those (like myself) who are just getting into making yeast starters.

I hope you all find this useful.


Permanent link to this article: http://csibrewers.org/content/?p=554

Oliver’s 3 Lions: Adventures in Open Fermentation

Last weekend, I brewed my version of Oliver’s 3 Lions Ale for the CRABS clone wars competition.  Steve Jones, head brewer at the Pratt Street Ale House, provided us with his recipe for a 7 barrel batch (available here) and it was left to us to scale it down for our systems.  I talked to Steve about his brewing process, which is definitely as important as the recipe itself, and decided that I wanted to do two things I’d never done before that go hand-in-hand at traditional English breweries: use Ringwood yeast, and conduct an open fermentation.  Ringwood is a yeast that some people seem to loathe due to its propensity to throw diacetyl when handled improperly, but anyone who has had a beer at Pratt Street knows that it can ferment clean, delicious ales.

The Pratt Street brewhouse, for those of you who haven’t seen it before, is “rustic” at best.  It’s shoehorned into the basement of a century old building with little room for walking or even standing up straight.  Their beers are brewed on a Peter Austin system — named for the founder of the Ringwood Brewery and popularized in America by Alan Pugsley of Shipyard — the likes of which have been installed across the country and are known for using open fermenters with Ringwood yeast.  I had previously experimented with fermenting in a wide, square container (the HDPE Vittles Vault pet food container) to evaluate the effects of shallow fermenter geometry on ester production in some of my Belgian beers.  I hadn’t done a truly open fermentation, though, and I figured that this would be the right fermenter to use.  Just to be safe, I got an elastic strainer bag to put over the top to keep dust out. As you’ll see in the pictures below, this probably wasn’t necessary due to the large rocky head that formed.

Below is what I came up with in Promash by scaling down the original recipe.

Steve was in England last week, so my plan to get some of the house yeast from him didn’t work out.  I instead used White Labs 005, which is the Ringwood strain that Oliver’s house yeast originated from many years ago.  It’s always important to pitch the proper amount of healthy yeast, and it seemed even more critical in this case.  Under-pitching leads to stressed yeast cells and incomplete fermentation, both of which can contribute diacetyl.  A fast start also seemed important to build a protective krausen layer on top of the open fermenter.

I used Jamil’s Mr. Malty yeast calculator, as always, to determine how large a starter I needed.  For 10 gallons of 1.075 ale wort, this came out to be about 3L with 2 vials of yeast added.  The starter went on the stirplate a few days before I planned on brewing.  The day before brewing, I crash cooled it in the fridge so I could decant the stale wort off of the yeast.

3 Liter yeast starter on stirplate

For the grain bill, I used all Maris Otter for the base malt instead of a combination of Halcyon and American 2-row .  The recipe also called for adding 5-star pH 5.2 stabilizer, which I don’t use.  I was concerned that the salt additions for burtonizing the water in combination with the acidic dark malts might bring the mash pH down too much.  After checking the mash pH, I added a bit of chalk to bring the pH up to 5.3, within the ideal range of 5.3 – 5.6 (measured at room temperature — this is often quoted as 5.1 – 5.4 due to the pH shift at mash temp).

Grains ready for dough in

Mashing at 152

Vorlauf (recirculation) before runoff to the kettle

First runnings

The hops used for the recipe were all classic English hops — Challenger at 90 minute, First Gold at 60, and EKG and Bramling Cross at flameout.  I waited 45 minutes before chilling as Steve does in his recipe for an aroma hop stand.

Hop bill for 3 Lions

When it was time to chill, I started pumping from the kettle through my Therminator plate chiller and adjusted the flow until it was coming out at 65F.  Steve’s recipe called for pitching at about 70-72 degrees, but I didn’t have the guts to do it, as pitching cool and fermentation temperature control have been the biggest keys to improving the quality of my beer.  Instead, I decided to pitch about 5 degrees below my fermentation temperature as I always do.  Most off-flavors and unwanted esters are generated in the first 48 hours of fermentation, so this still leaves plenty of time to let it warm up and ferment vigorously to completion.

One hernia-inducing flight of stairs later, the vittles vault and 10 gallons of wort were upstairs in a 68 degree room.  I aerated the wort with my aquarium pump, pitched the yeast, and covered the opening with the mesh strainer bag.

Open fermenter, with hair net

12 hours later, the temperature strip on the side of the fermenter read 72, and the beer had the wildest looking krausen that I’d ever seen.

An alien life form grows

After 24 hours, it had almost reached the top.  This was definitely a vigorous fermentation.  I took this opportunity to skim the bitter brown hop sludge from the top and then stir to introduce oxygen as Steve does.  I did this each night for the first 3 days.

This would have been a major blowoff in a carboy

On day 3, fermentation was still active according to the sound of CO2 bubbles escaping from the surface.  The fermentation temperature reached a max of 75 or so before slowly cooling down.

Day 3

Steve says that he crash cools after 4 days, but on a homebrew scale I’ve never been able to replicate the aggressive schedules that commercial brewers use.  Whether it’s because of the size of the batch, the fact that the yeast from a previous batch ferments faster than a new generation, or some other unknown factor, I give every beer at least a week in the primary, often more.  I checked the gravity on day 4 and it was down to 1.020, so I decided that the time for oxygenation and CO2 release was over and put the lid on.  By day 7, it was down to 1.016, and I kegged and crash cooled since I still had a deadline of March 11 for the competition

Half of this batch is currently carbonating in the keg, and by Friday I’ll have some bottles filled and ready to bring over to Pratt Street.  According to Steve, a 12 day turnaround is no problem for this beer; so far, he was definitely right about the virgorous fermentation and good attenuation.  Initial taste tests are promising, but I’ll have to wait for the carbonated version to see if I really think that this turned out to be a good clone of 3 Lions.

The other half?  I’m trying something different.  It’s sitting in secondary with 2 ounces of EKG pellets added.  I hope to end up with a nice floral, malty English IPA.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Permanent link to this article: http://csibrewers.org/content/?p=452

Help with Making a Berliner Weiss

For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of making a Berliner Weiss. I had one a few years back at New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin and thought it was amazing. It just so happens there’s a great article on Sour Beers in the March/April 2011 issue of Zymurgy by Matt Lange. The article is named Funk with Less Fuss: A Shortcut to Sour Beers. In this article Matt talks about an alternative way of creating a sour beer that doesn’t include you having to buy a commercial yeast with Lactobacillus or running the risk of contaminating your equipment.  He also gives a Berliner Weiss recipe.  I’m OK with this recipe, but he has some rather unconventional steps that I’d like to get comments on here.  If you want the full article, let me know and I’ll send you a PDFed copy.  Otherwise, here’s his steps in a nutshell:

1) Create a “Sour Starter” three days before your brew day. He takes a small amount of malt and adds it to a solution of warm water and sugar and then holds it in an insulated jar for 3 days at around 100°F. He does this by putting the insulated jar it on a heating grate in his house. This creates a culture of lactic acid-producing bacteria.

2) Brew your beer. Mash and sparge as you would normally. Once the wort is run off to the brew kettle, he says to bring it to a boil to kill off bacteria. Then cool the wort to 100°F and pitch the sour starter created in Step 1. Let the wort and sour starter mix sit for 12-24 hours in a cooler at 100°F.

3) After the sour rest, bring the beer back to a 90 minute boil and add bittering hops at 60 minutes. Cool to 60-70°F and pitch your yeast for fermentation.

He says the advantages are:

  • Takes less time over oak aging
  • Gives the brewer more control over acidity in the final product
  • Eliminates the threat of cross-contamination with sour  yeasts

He says the disadvantage here is that the beer will lack the complexity that oak aging and Brettanomyces add to the beer.  Other than that, it creates a very comparable beer.

Here’s my question to the club.  Has anyone ever tried this method?  I’m curious to see what your experience is here.  I’d like to try it, but don’t want to waste my time if you all think this is a crappy method or produces less than acceptable results.

Thanks, Brent

Permanent link to this article: http://csibrewers.org/content/?p=485

Ben’s Review of Max’s Belgian Beer Festival 2011

Check out Ben’s write up of the Belgian Festival at this link:


Permanent link to this article: http://csibrewers.org/content/?p=440

NSF Silicone Anyone

Guys, I have a tube of Dow Corning 732 100%  Silicone sealant. I will use maybe 1/10 of the tube for a repair on my mash tun. If you would like the rest of it for your project, please let me know. I know what you are thinking, “What’s the big deal about Dow Corning 732”? This ain’t you nasty home depot 100%  Silicone stuff.  Dow Corning 732 is NSF rated safe, so you don’t end up with some funky chemicals (from the curing)  leaking into you wort/finished beer. If you want a fresh tube, it can be found at McMaster-Carr.

Permanent link to this article: http://csibrewers.org/content/?p=425

Hey Marylanders…Hops Season is Almost Here!!

We all feel it, the sense of self pride that we get in hand crafting our own beer.  Our friends love to drink it.  It’s a great discussion topic when meeting new people.  And the best part, it’s a lot of fun.  Well this Spring, those of you looking to add another chapter to your homebrewing adventure might want to consider growing some hops.  All you need is some vertical space, a green thumb and a little patience and you can have a fresh supply of hops enhancing your beers for years to come.  Below you will find some ideas I have put together for you to get started.

The Basics

I think that BYO (Brew Your Own) Magazine did a great little introduction to hops back in September 2009.  This video is available for all to view on Youtube.  It gives you a great 3-minute run down on the basics of growing hops.  Take a look at this video:

Growing Hops in Maryland

I learned about hops growing the hard way last year here in Maryland.  I got Nugget, Williamette, and Cascade rhizomes and planted all of them in the yard.  The Nugget rhizome went in the garden in the side yard of my house with good sun light during the morning and early afternoon, but no sunlight in the mid-afternoon and early evening.  The Wiliamette and Cascade rhizomes were planted in the backyard getting very little sun in the morning and early afternoon, but plenty of sun in the mid-afternoon and early evening?  Take a guess which rhizome did the best?  The Nugget.

Again, BYO Magazine had a great article in the March – April 2011 issue in which author Chris Colby discusses “Southern Hop Growing:  The problems and the promise.”  Chris lives in Texas, which by all accounts, DC had a similar summer to in 2010.  Very hot, very humid, and long stretches without rain.  So what ended up happening?  The afternoon summer sun here in Maryland was way too much for the Williamette and Cascade hops to thrive in this climate.

So there are a couple things that I took away from this last year’s growing season that were verified by Chris Colby.

  1. Plant your hops rhizomes in an area that receives a lot of morning and early afternoon sun, but gives the plants a rest from the brutal summer sunshine in the afternoon.
  2. Rhizomes like Williamette are not meant for this climate.  This is a hit or miss that you might have to play around with.  The Nugget seems to grow great and Chris Colby points out that hops like Centennial, Chinook, Zeus, Cascade, and Norther Brewer do well in Texas.  I’m guessing we could say the same about what to grow here in Maryland.

Where to Buy Hops Rhizomes

You can buy hops rhizomes just about anywhere now a days, but you can only buy them at a certain time of year…late Winter / early Spring.  For example, our local homebrew shop Maryland Homebrew just sent out an e-mail stating they were taking orders.  Available varieties are:  Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Fuggles, Glacier, Golding, Hallertau, Horizon, Magnum, Northern Brewer, Nugget, Tettnang, and Williamette.  They are available for $4.95 a piece or 2 for $9.90.  Orders needs to be in by Sunday February 28th and the rhizomes will come in at the end of March.

Another great place to buy hops rhizomes is from Freshops.com.  They have a wide variety of hops, including “Jumbo” rhizomes.  I purchased a Nugget jumbo rhizome last year and it got to work fast.  These jumbo rhizomes are about twice the size of regular rhizomes and in most cases yield hops within the first year.  You pay a little bit more for them (I paid $7.00 for one rhizome) and are limited in the number that you can purchase, but from my vantage point, they are worth it.

Freshops.com also has some nice twine for the hops to grow up.  A good sturdy twine is a must for handling the weight of a full grown hops vine.  The twine is made from the coir fiber of the coconut husk and is imported from Sri Lanka.  At $6.00 for 10 strings of 20 feet in length (200 feet total), it is a great buy.  Heck it is handy to have a sturdy twine like this hanging around the house just in case you need some good twine to tie something down.

Literature on Growing Hops

One of the first books that I got when I decided I was going to grow hops was the “Homebrewer’s Garden” by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher.  This is a great book that outlines good hops growing techniques, such as setting up a trellis, how to plant the  hops, what hops grow well in various climates, and harvesting your hops.  It also has a bunch of great information on growing other various ingredients which you commonly, or uncommonly in some cases, use in homebrewing.  It is a great book and you can find it on sites like Amazon.com for around $10 – $12.

Another great reference is the “Hops Lovers Guide” by the folks at BYO Magazine.  It’s a great reference guide that gives you the lowdown on growing, buying, storing, and using hops, as well as a bunch of hoppy recipes that you can try.  At $7.00 this is another must have for anyone who enjoys hops and wants to know more about them.

What’s to Come?

Well 2011 should be pretty interesting as my Nugget rhizome is in it’s second year of maturity and I now know the ins and outs of growing hops.  I hope to have a bountiful harvest full of yummy Nugget hops that I can trade with other hops growers in the club.

I hope you all have found the research that I have done useful and let me know if you have any questions or comments through the comments field at the bottom of this page.  Best of luck in your hops growing adventures.

-Brent MacAloney

Permanent link to this article: http://csibrewers.org/content/?p=388

Enter the 3 Lions Clone Wars Competition

Our friends at Oliver Breweries, Pratt Street Ale House, and CRABS have gotten together over the last few years to run “Clone Wars” for homebrewers in the Baltimore area.  It’s pretty simple.  The recipe to the 3 Lions Ale is provided according to how it is brewed and served at the Pratt Street Ale House.  You brew the recipe, submit it to be judged, and the top 3 clones win prizes.  The prizes are as follows:

  1. A brew day with Steve Jones to brew a batch of 3 Lions and a sixtal of the finished beer.
  2. A $25 Gift Certificate to Pratt Street Ale House and a Growler of 3 Lions
  3. A Growler of 3 Lions and a 3 Lions souvenir glass.

Submissions are due to Maryland Homebrew or Pratt Street Ale House by March 11th, 2011 in the form of 3 bottles or the equivalent of 3 bottles in a growler, 2 liter bottle, or whatever.

Click here for the recipe and submission labels.

For more information visit www.crabsbrew.org.

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Calling all homebrewers! DuClaw is looking for a HERO.

DuClaw Brewing Company is holding a contest where you could have a chance to have your homebrew brewed by DuClaw Brewery.  Even cooler, the winning brew will be available on tap at DuClaw Brewery Co. restaurants and sold at local beer merchants.  So here’s your chance to get some bragging rights with your buddies.

ENTRY DEADLINE: April 18, 2011


  1. This contest is open to all homebrewers. One entry per person/group. Must be at least 21 years old to enter.
  2. There is no cost to enter. Entrants must submit three 12-ounce bottles (PET bottles are acceptable). NO growlers.
  3. Entries are open all styles of beer (ales and lagers) with the following exceptions: Wood-aged, Lambics, Sours and beers that utilize bacteria in the brewing process.
  4. Although you are welcome to enter styles that DuClaw currently brews or have brewed in  the past, we strongly suggest that they be unique and/or differ from our beers in some way. We highly encourage creativity, but be sure to utilize ingredients that can be easily sourced for large scale production.
  5. Entry deadline is 4/18/2011.
  6. Beers will be judged by the brewery staff and due to time constraints, judging/feedback sheets will NOT be distributed.
  7. There is no requirement to adhere to any specific style…again, we encourage creativity!

For more information:  http://www.duclawbeer.com/hero/

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